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DWN Statement: Obama Budget Harms Immigrants by Funding Increased Detentions and Monitoring #EndtheQuota #ExposeandClose

DWN Blog - February 3, 2015 - 18:43

For Immediate Release: February 3, 2015

Contact: Molly Haigh,

Analysis: Obama Budget Harms Immigrants by Funding Increased Detentions and Monitoring

WASHINGTON, DC – The White House announced it’s proposed budget for the 2016 financial year. In response, the Detention Watch Network released the following analysis of how the budget could affect detention levels in the coming year.

The new White House Budget would:

  • Increase funding for immigrant detention to $2.4 billion, up from $2.2 billion in FY2014.
  • Bring the total number of detention beds to 34,040 – 40 beds above the congressionally-mandated detention bed quota.
  • Increase funding for ICE Custody Operations by $435.392 million, including 2,760 family detention beds and a 741 bed increase in adult detention. This increase in detention is alarming given the President’s executive action, which should instead result in reduced detention numbers.
  • Provide $122.5 million in funding for “Alternatives to Detention,” ATD, increasing by 29,807 the number of people under this program. Rather than using ATD to decrease the number of people in detention, this budget instead supplements immigrant detention by expanding the system of custody and surveillance to those who would otherwise have been released.

Statement from Detention Watch Network Co-Director, Silky Shah:

“We are disappointed to see the Obama Administration doubling down on their mass detention policies for immigrants. President Obama’s funding request for an arbitrary and predetermined number of detention beds, many to be filled by families and children, reminds us just how morally and fiscally ruinous this system is.

No one should be held behind bars to meet an arbitrary quota set in Washington by politicians– and President Obama should be ashamed of his role in this ongoing tragedy.”

For interviews with the Detention Watch Network in English or Spanish, please contact Molly Haigh at 907-750-1999 or


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The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.

Faith Leaders Denounce Private Prison’s Use of Chaplain to Whitewash Record of Abuse #ShutDownStewart #ExposeandClose

DWN Blog - January 12, 2015 - 11:15

Photo By: Steve Pavey


Monday, 12 January 2014

CONTACT: Brett Abrams :

Faith Leaders Denounce Private Prison’s Use of Chaplain to Whitewash Record of Abuse

Open Letter to Corrections Corporation of America Laments the Use of Staff Chaplain to Hide Treatment of Immigrants Detained at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia

GEORGIA – In December, faith leaders and immigration activists from around the country were strongly disappointed to read an op-ed titled “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” penned by Corrections Corporation of America chaplain, Rev. Joseph Shields, and published in The Hill as a response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani.   In response, faith leaders have addressed an open letter to Rev. Joseph Shields and the Corrections Corporation of America, calling on the corporation and the facility’s chaplain to “stand on spiritual authority, alongside the unjustly detained children of God, and against any actor, who dehumanizes, commodifies or mistreats those entrusted to his spiritual care, including his employer.”


Advocates from Georgia Detention Watch in conjunction with faith leaders across the country argue that Rev. Joseph Shields, as representative of the Corrections Corporation of America, presented a grossly inaccurate portrayal of the conditions at the Stewart Detention Center in southern Georgia, and attempted to use his religious title to whitewash the facility’s historic record of abuses towards immigrants detained solely for civil proceedings.

The open letter, addressed to the Corrections Corporation of America, and signed by faith leaders argues that “perhaps the greatest disservice perpetuated by the detention facility’s spiritual spokesperson is that he attempts to silence the growing voice of dissent coming directly from inside the belly of the very place where he is called to minister to the suffering, not defend the powerful.”

The letter goes on to explain that, “…the conditions at Stewart are far from safe or humane. Those detained are speaking out and nonviolently resisting. Through direct interviews, correspondence and limited media coverage, we continue to hear of detained immigrants at Stewart condemning such degradations as the use of solitary confinement, denial of contact visits, lack of basic hygiene, inadequate mental and medical healthcare, insufficient and sometimes inedible food, substantial burdening of their religious liberty, and a coercive labor program, where the corporation gets the detained immigrants to perform labor for 1 to 4 dollars a day. Immigrants who file a grievance about their treatment are likely to face retaliation from the guards.”



For interviews with immigration advocates or faith leaders, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at

My Experiences at the CCA Operated Stewart Detention Center #ShutDownStewart #ExposeandClose

DWN Blog - January 5, 2015 - 14:36

By Eduardo Zuniga.  Zuniga currently resides in Mexico City.

I was shocked and appalled to read the December 9, 2014 op-ed, “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” by Rev. Joseph Shields of Stewart in response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani.  The picture painted of this prison by Rev. Shields, an employee of the Corrections Corporation of America, bears no resemblance to my experience at Stewart.

I was detained at Stewart from January to June 2011.  I crushed my toe and twisted my leg while working in the Stewart Detention Center’s kitchen for sub-minimum wages, and both injuries were undertreated.

Due to a shortage of special shoes, I was told that I would have to work in my regular shoes.  My first injury came from a cooler dropping on my foot, which shattered my toenail.  The medical personnel refused to remove the shards of my nail from my toe. They only gave me over-the-counter pain medication, antibiotics, and instructions to apply ice to my toe. The toe became infected and extremely painful.  I eventually had to remove the shards myself.

I injured my knee about a month later when I slipped on water on the kitchen floor. I was not allowed to get medical help for three months.  The nurses and medical staff called me names like “crybaby” and “little girl.”  The medical staff issued me one crutch despite the fact that medical records indicated I was supposed to receive two.  My armpit became bruised and blistered. I missed meals for two days because I had to rest my arms and couldn’t get to the meal hall without the crutch.  In at least one instance, guards threatened me with “the hole” if I did not get up and get back to work despite medical orders to rest.

Now back in Mexico, I continue to experience pain in my knee and am not able to engage in physical activity like I used to.

I was not alone in the indignities I suffered while detained at this prison. I routinely witnessed other men being denied adequate medical and mental healthcare, hygienic conditions, or adequate food.  As just one example, almost every time chicken was served to us, it was undercooked.

Guards were frequently verbally abusive.  When I was in a pod that housed several elderly men and those with physical disabilities, I witnessed guards come up behind a blind man who spoke no English and suddenly yell at him, in English.  These verbal attacks were not in response to anything the man had done.

Hearing about the hunger strike by dozens of detained men at Stewart over the summer because of maggots in their food and other violations of their human rights made me sad and angry. Knowing that fellow human beings continue to suffer at that prison while Corrections Corporation of America continues to spin its publicity machine and makes millions in profits is intolerable.

It is time to shut Stewart down.

Thank You from Detention Watch Network

DWN Blog - December 23, 2014 - 11:32

As the year draws to a close, we want to thank you for your support, your commitment and your passion to bring justice to immigrants in detention.

Your support has made it possible for us to:

  • Be strong national advocates for immigrants in detention
  • Launch the End the Quota Campaign and call attention to the immigration detention bed quota that effectively ensures that 34,000 immigrants are detained at any given time
  • Continue to Expose and Close the most egregious immigration detention centers
  • Fight back against the recent expansion of family detention and work to end the inhumane practice of family detention

Learn more about our accomplishments this year in the DWN Membership Report 2014.

Your support matters! Please help DWN continue to fight in 2015 for the rights and dignity of men, women and children in the immigration detention system.

You can give today at (choose Detention Watch Network under Projects)

With heartfelt thanks,

Ana Carrion, Co-Director

P.S. Become a Sustaining Donor!
Sustaining gifts provide on-going and reliable support for our activities. To become a DWN Sustainer, please set up your account through our online donation page: Please choose Detention Watch Network under Projects.

Even just $10 a month can go a long way in helping us fulfill our goal of reducing the number of people in detention overall. Thank You!

Listen: New York Action to Demand #EndChildDetention and #EndFamilyDetention

DWN Blog - November 21, 2014 - 10:58

On November 20, 2014 in New York City, several organizations held a vigil to demand the end of immigration detention for children and families.

The United Nations met on November 20 in New York to celebrate the 25th anniversary of  the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which  monitors implementation of the treaty has called for an end to child and family detention: “… The detention of a child because of their or their parents’ migration status constitutes a child rights violation and always contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child. In this light, States should expeditiously and  completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their immigration status.”

The United States and other governments continue to violate children’s rights by detaining and deporting parents and creating family detention centers. Advocates and migrant families will gather at the United Nations for a candle light vigil urging an end to detention, particularly child and family detention. This will be followed by a panel event exploring the impacts of detention on  children and needed State actions to defend their human rights.

The vigil was sponsored by the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, American Friends Service Committee ,Black Alliance for Just Immigration, DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center, First Friends of New Jersey & New York, Families for Freedom, Immigrant Defense Project, International Detention Coalition, Justice Strategies, Loretto at the UN, New Sanctuary Movement, Reformed Church of Highland Park, Terre Des Hommes, United Methodist Women, We Belong Together Campaign, & Women’s Refugee Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

DWN Slams Obama Executive Action on Deportations for Not Including Critical Detention Reforms #ExposeandClose #EndtheQuota

DWN Blog - November 20, 2014 - 21:39
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 20 November 2014

Statement from Silky Shah, co-director of the Detention Watch Network, on news that President Obama has announced executive action on immigration and deportation relief for 4 million undocumented Americans:

“President Obama’s action today to delay the deportation of roughly 4 million undocumented immigrants is an encouraging step that unfortunately does not fully address the glaring human rights violations occurring under his tenure. We are in the midst of a crisis– families are being locked up in jails, the largest detention center in United States history will open by the end of the year, and more than 34,000 people are forcibly detained every night across the U.S. due to the arbitrary detention ‘bed quota.’

“Plain and simple, the U.S. government must end its reliance on immigration detention and eliminate the detention bed quota, which requires at minimum 34,000 immigrants be detained at any given time. President Obama’s executive action will do nothing to protect both documented and undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions who have already paid their debt to society, and will instead intensify the dragnet in order to earn political points and maintain the corrupt and arbitrary quota.”

For interviews with the Detention Watch Network, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at

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The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.

New CIVIC Project Launch: “Drawing By Themselves: Portraits of America” #EndFamilyDetention @endisolation

DWN Blog - November 20, 2014 - 15:42

Via Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement:

Today, CIVIC is releasing “Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America,” a multimedia that provides children and their parents in U.S. immigration detention with an opportunity to share their experience through drawings and stories.  CIVIC produced the project in partnership with the International Detention Coalition, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children.

“Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America” tells a story about America today.  Through their artwork, the children and parents express their humanity and claim the United States as their own, even as the Obama Administration continues to expand family detention in response to the recent arrival of Central American women and children asylum seekers fleeing violence in their home countries.

“Immigration detention is a one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ that locks up mothers, fathers, and children in unimaginable isolation,” said Christina Fialho, a California attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  “Imprisoning children and families is a human rights violation.”

For More Information:

Action Alert: Nov. 20 International Day of Action Against Child and Family Detention #EndFamilyDetention #EndChildDetention

DWN Blog - November 19, 2014 - 16:26
Marking the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, tomorrow, November 20th, over 20 countries will participate in the International Detention Coalition’s day of action to end the inhumane and unlawful practice of child and family detention.  Read below on actions near you and ways to support! Social Media Share this image on your social media platforms! Sample Tweet: All children have rights #EndChildDetention #CRC25 #EndFamilyDetention

  • Use #EndChildDetention and #EndFamilyDetention
  • Join IDC’s thundercalp to amplify your voice against child detention!

Educate your Community

Use DWN’s Family Detention Webpage for talking points, backgrounders, and a list of member reports and resources on family detention. Make a Statement *Note: Member resource* Use DWN’s sample press release and messaging guide to craft your statement against child and family detention. Contact for more information. CALL IN DAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY:

Sample Script: My name is _____ calling from _____.  As a constituent, I oppose the expansion of immigrant family detention. Families held in DHS custody are seeking protection from violence, trafficking, and domestic violence. Children require specialized medical, educational, and legal support that detention facilities cannot provide. The President and DHS are seeking $879 million in funding for 6,350 additional family detention beds. The Obama administration has not waited for this funding and has already expanded family detention by 1200% between June-August 2014. I hope you will publicly speak out against family detention and contact the White House to express your alarm over this practice.  I encourage you to put an end to the inhumane practice of family detention by closing the Karnes Facility in Texas and by stoping further expansion of the Dilley Facility. NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Join American Friends Service Committee for a candlelight vigil to demand an end to child and family detention! Participating DWN members: Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Women’s Refugee Commission, United Methodist Women, Immigrant Defense Project, Families for Freedom, First Friends of New Jersey and New York. Date: November 20, 2014
Time: 5:00 – 8:00 pm Location: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, E 47th St., New York, New York 10017  For More Information: e2ma-content-block"> Community Initiatives for Visting Immigrants in Confinement is launching a new project, Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America, which provides children and parents in immigration detention with a platform to share their artwork and their stories. The project launch is set to take place in partnership with IDC’s international day of action. Watch the video on the campaign to end child detention. Date: November 20, 2014 Time: 6:00 pm Location: Church Center for the United Nations, 777 1st Avenue, E 44th St., New York, NY 10017 ARTESIA, NEW MEXICO The ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights, Somos un Pueblo Unido, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops,  the American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with residents from Southeast New Mexico, will hold a candlelight vigil in Artesia, NM, outside the FLETC detention center in protest of the ongoing practice of family detention in the United States. Date: November 20, 2014 Time: 6:00 pm Location: Outside the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, 1300 W. Richey Ave., Artesia, NM AUSTIN, TEXAS: Join Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families for the world premiere of “No Sanctuary: The Big Business of Family Detention,” by Austin filmaker, Matt Gossage. Reserve your seat now!
Date: November 21, 2014
Location: Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St, Austin, TX Time: 7:00 to 9:00 pm For More Information:

DWN Members React to Artesia Closure and Opening of Dilley Facility #ExposeandClose #EndFamilyDetention

DWN Blog - November 19, 2014 - 14:13

DWN members issued the following statements below (Check back for updates):

 A child’s letter of hope to kids inside a family detention center

ACLU of Texas: ICE to Transfer Mothers and Children to For-Profit Detention Center

American Immigration Lawyers Association: Administration’s Shell Game Doesn’t Change the Need to End Inhumane Family Detention

Grassroots Leadership: Closure of Artesia Facility Necessary, But Massive New For-Profit Detention Camp Should Not Replace It

Human Rights First: Administration Should Abandon Texas Family Detention Center Plan

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services: LIRS Statement in Response to Artesia Closure: End Family Detention

National Immigrant Justice Center: DHS to Close Controversial Artesia Family Detention Center, Open Largest Immigration Detention Center in U.S. History

Women’s Refugee Commission: Women’s Refugee Commission Responds to DHS Announcement to Move Families out of Artesia into the New Family Detention Center in Dilley, TX

Mission Presbytery Immigration Task Force:

Mission Presbytery Immigration Task Force celebrates the decision to close the Artesia detention facility. Unfortunately, this is just the first step in ending family detention in the United States. We will continue to advocate for the closing of this inhumane and abhorrent practice that runs counter to our faith and patriotism. Detaining children in the basis of their parents’ immigration status is unacceptable and never appropriate. We will continue to advocate for an end to family detention everywhere including the close of the for profit Karnes Family Detention Center in Karnes, Texas. We also believe plans to expand family detention through the construction of a new facility in Dilley, Texas are unacceptable. We pause to celebrate the closing of Artesia, but only in the context of the destructive and offensive policy of detaining mothers and their children in jail.

DWN Slams ICE Plans to Open New Family Detention Facility in Dilley TX, Applaud Closing of #Artesia #EndFamilyDetention

DWN Blog - November 18, 2014 - 14:59


Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Brett Abrams  :

Statement from Silky Shah, co-director of the Detention Watch Network, on the announcement that ICE plans to transfer women and children currently held at the Artesia Family Detention Center to Dilley in December.

“News that the White House plans to double-down on their failed, inhumane, and alarmingly punitive response to refugee families arriving at the border by opening a new facility to incarcerate families and children in Dilley, Texas is deeply disappointing.

While we have long advocated for the closure of the Artesia Detention Facility, ICE’s decision to transition detained women and children to a new facility in Dilley completely misses the issue at hand. Family detention is an abusive, and inhumane practice that erodes family bonds, and undermines children’s well being.   

Additionally troubling is the fact that ICE will contract with the notorious Corrections Corporation of America, a company known for its human rights violations at countless facilities, including the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, which stopped holding families after reports of the appalling treatment and conditions for children in custody.

It is long past time that the Obama Administration abandon the abusive, and inhumane policy of detaining immigrant women and children and that starts with closing Artesia, and cancelling plans for their new 2400-bed facility in Dilley. ”

Earlier this year, the Detention Watch Network released a report that documented the skyrocketing use of family detention in the United States and outlined the specific conditions on-the-ground at the Artesia Family Detention Facility in New Mexico.


For more information, or for interviews, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at

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The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.